There is much that has gone wrong in recent weeks for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lead partner of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre. It isn’t only the massive defeat in Delhi or the coming protests against its land acquisition ordinance, as it braces for a potentially tough Budget session of Parliament. The BJP’s decades-old allies in the NDA, the Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal, are upset at not being consulted on key issues. The BJP finds itself in a tangle in Bihar with breakaway Janata Dal (United) Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is battling corruption allegations from the Congress, while colleagues of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar are unhappy with his style of functioning. Read our full coverage on Union Budget The good news for the BJP is that it might soon have new allies, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has said it is solidly behind Prime Minister Modi’s reform agenda. A coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir looks possible, while the PM’s comments on religious freedom are likely to somewhat blunt the opposition attack during the Parliament session. According to sources, the PM could expand his cabinet when Parliament breaks for recess during the Budget session. It is likely Modi will include a member of parliament (MP) from Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), and two MPs from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu & Kashmir.
Rao met the PM on Monday. The PDP has three MPs in the Lok Sabha and two in the Rajya Sabha, while the TRS has 11 in the Lok Sabha and one in the Upper House. The PDP-BJP talks have hit an RSS hurdle, with RSS leaders cautioning the BJP to not surrender to the PDP on issues such as Article 370 and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). BJP leaders, however, are hopeful Sangh leaders will see reason. The RSS has also stepped in to shepherd the BJP’s Bihar strategy, after party strategists found it difficult to disentangle themselves by initially encouraging Manjhi’s rebellion. A shot in the arm for Modi is the Sangh relaying total support for his reform agenda, and welcoming dismantling of subsidies. The editorials in the latest issues of RSS mouthpieces, Organiser (English) and Panchjanya (Hindi), have said victory of the Aam Aadmi Party and its promise of “freebies” could kill India’s growth story under Modi. The RSS has lauded Modi’s “performance-oriented governance and reformist measures”. Meanwhile, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Raghav Reddy has asked leaders such as Pravin Togadia to refrain from criticising the government. On Monday, Reddy asked “Hindu leaders to make balanced statements”, and give Modi time. On Wednesday, the PM’s comments on religious freedom at an event to celebrate the beatification of Christian saints are evidence of the Delhi defeat having strengthened the PM’s hands within the Sangh Parivar. But the NDA will be faced with a reinvigorated opposition in Parliament, and is unlikely to find it easy to get key bills passed to replace its series of ordinances.